Rules of Monogramming
Although there have been periods in history when single initial
monograms and two-letter monograms were preferred, the three-letter
monogram has come to symbolize the standard layout.
In the 19th and Early 20th Centuries, when the rules for three-letter
monograms were created, it would have been fairly easy to decide
which letters represented which parts of an individual’s name.
Alice Canfield Bostwick would immediately recognize this monogram
as her own – first name initial (A) on the left, middle name
initial (C) on the right, and last name initial (B) in the center,
larger than the rest.
In the modern world, things get a good deal more complicated,
and so it is with monogramming. The rules haven’t really
been revisited lately, and some confusion and disagreement have
always accompanied these rules anyway. In an effort to help
extend the rules for the 21st Century, we hosted a focus group
and asked participants to respond to a series of monogramming
We collected responses over a three month period. The results
are posted below. Thanks to all who participated in this project.
Taylor and Mary Blount are getting married. They have already
decided that after the marriage they will both use John’s
Last Name. How would you create a monogram for them?
- 766 votes.
- 1766 votes.
- 349 votes.
The majority prefer
that the man's initial goes on the left and the woman's initial
goes on the right. However, there is a reasonable vote for
the opposite, with this comment representing their reasoning
- "...linens are generally considered a bride's domain."
"I put the first initial of the person I know best in
the first position"
"I would find out if the bride was keeping her name.
If so, a three letter monogram is inappropriate. One would
to use 4 letters in that case. People should be addressed
(or monogrammed) using whatever title they prefer. If the
bride is changing her name, JTM is appropriate"
"Stick with tradition!!! Use her initials on linens
and his on glassware!"
"I would just use capital letter T unless requested
otherwise. That way the husband and wife are honoring the
union of the
marriage and the wife's acquisition of the last name. I embroidered
some towels for my in-laws with the single initial and it
they seem happy with it. It emphasizes pride in the last
"I think a monogram is an individual thing -- it can't
represent two people at once. That's why its a MONOgram"
Jackson and David Wells are life partners. They are moving
into a new house and want a monogram blending both their
names. What would be the best arrangement of letters?
- 1083 votes.
- 1424 votes.
- 293 votes.
There is a slight preference
for the solution that uses just the last name initials to
create a two-letter monogram. The comments suggest that visual
simplicity is the most important factor. Quite a few respondents
indicated that they would put some sort of punctuation between
"Order of letters to be determined by Timothy and David,
based on whichever arrangement looks best to them"
"Because a two letter monogram generally indicates
one person, I would use T-D, with a hyphen between the letters"
"They would each get their own towel. TJ and DW"
"I would create a square monogram by placing a smaller
T and D side by side above large J and W"
"I'd consult with the couple but would recommend doing
ONLY the last name initials and would join them with a stylized
hyphen to symbolize their union"
"No monogram for people not legally married"
Barnes and Michael Dailey have announced their engagement.
After thir marriage they have chosen to blend their last
names, and will be known as Janice and Michael Barnes-Dailey.
What would their monogram look like?
- 534 votes.
- 1391 votes.
- 685 votes.
In this situation, the majority think that the
hyphen should be eliminated. Of those that think it should
remain, there is almost an even split between those that
think the woman's initial goes on the left and those that
think the man's initial goes on the left - interesting in
light of the overwhelming choice for the woman's initial
on the left in the first question.
"Just 2 letters same size: BD"
"Yikes! Definitely skip the hyphen. There should be
no hyphens in monograms"
"Blending with a hyphen indicates the couple wishes
to carry some of their independence into the marriage, so
is a must and I think the first name initials should flank
the coordinating last name"
"I think when you go past 3 initials it doesn't look
as sophisticated. I would suggest doing 2 sets - one for
her and one for him"
"I would use large letters on either side representing
their first names and two smaller letters in the center in
fashion representing their last names. The center letters
would be smaller, but their combined height would be a bit
larger then the side letters"
O’Connors have a new baby – Jennifer Marie.
You want to embroider a monogram for her as a gift. What
is the best choice for the arrangement of letters?
- 350 votes.
- 2297 votes.
- 177 votes.
On this question the clear majority prefers to
use the O in the center and simplify the look of the monogram.
"As a person with a Mc last name, I think that is a
non issue - just use the first letter of the name!"
"We often incorporate the second letter inside the
"For a newborn - I would not do a monogram, but her
full name - Jennifer Marie"
"I would use one letter only - the name she would be
"No initials for babies. First name only... a monogram
implies history, tradition - isn't it too soon for baby to
March-Russell and Emily Hudson-Smith want a monogram that
incorporates both of them, and have come to you to have
it embroidered on linens and towels. How would you advise
- 173 votes.
- 2297 votes.
- 177 votes.
As the situation gets more complex the opinion
becomes more evenly divided. There is a clear preference
for simplicity, but the rest is up in the air. This question
got more comments than any of the others.
"Too many names. I would either do a monogram for each...and
put it on an individual towel, or just a single initial might
be nice. If you have names like this... I would have the
individual decide what they like"
"They each need a towel, do his mono on one and hers
on the other. Traditionally linens are embroidered with the
"How do they intend to sign legal documents, like checks?
Based upon that answer I would then consider the question
of a monogram"
"Since this is an unusual combination of names I would
simply show them the options and let them decide which is
"No need for life history on monogram - EHS on curve
above JMR curved below"
Marie DeGennaro wants to get linens embroidered with her
three-letter monogram. How would you arrange the initials?
- 149 votes.
- 2651 votes.
- 86 votes.
As with the O'Connor question, a large majority
prefer the use the D - the first initial in sequence - with
first initial on the left and middle initial on the right.
"Does Susan think of herself as Degenarro, or deGenarro?
(which part is more important?) - then choose the one based
"I would place put a Large D in the center and try
to put a smaller G in the center of the D, with a smaller
S on the
left and a smaller M on the right."
"Tough one-- depends on how recent an immigrant she
may be. If several generations, the De may not mean as much"
"An overlapping dG would be nice here"
In addition to responses to the multiple-choice questions,
which were intentionally created in as conventional a form
as possible, we also received many thoughtful and creative
suggestions for unconventional monograms and design concepts.
In a world increasingly overrun with the marketing of corporate
image, it is important to remember that a monogram is a personal "logo",
and deserves the same attention to good design. Creating
a symbol for yourself, or for someone else if you are in
the business of monogramming, can be a very rewarding process.